You can’t help but be aware of the warmth and safety of Nice, a city where you can enjoy that rare freedom of being able to walk around at night with no fear of people as you thrill to the festival atmosphere of street musicians and street theatre in Place Rossetti, or getting lost down the many small streets with their abundance of interesting shops.
Superficially, Nice can seem like an expensive city, but it does not have to be as there is plenty to see and do for free. One of the most fulfilling things you can do here – and a great way to take in the feel and the atmosphere of this beautiful city – is to just walk around taking photographs. There is joy to be found here in every corner: relaxing in Jardin Botanique on a tree-shaded park bench to stay cool in the midday sun; or people watching from one of the many authentic cafes in true Gallic style! Just grab a coffee and a freshly prepared sandwich, then sit back on Promenade des Anglais and simply watch the world go by.
It has to be the Cote d’Azur, for my activity break of choice – idealy centred on Nice. And with budget flights accessible from most UK centres, it could hardly be simpler. Once you’ve settled into your accommodation and unpacked all your gear, you’re set – and winter is definitely the best time to go! After an early breakfast, drive north to Valberg, Isola or Auron for a morning on the ski slopes, followed by a lunch, before returning to the shores of the Mediterranean. Then you have the choice of cycle routes – leisurely along the corniche, or challenging and into the Alpes Maritime (Gourdon or Sospel, perhaps). And in the evening, what could be better than SCUBA diving with your buddies at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
La Zucca Magica is a little vegetarian haven on the French south coast in Nice, not a country noted for veggie restaurants! It’s a quirky place, every corner is filled with pumpkins, fairy lights and newspaper clippings of the larger than life chef - Marco. The restaurant is quite small and the tables are close together so it’s full of atmosphere and very sociable.
The restaurant only offers a set meal of five courses - you don’t see a menu, you just sit back and enjoy the ride! The selection changes daily as the chef creates inventive and tasty dishes from the fresh produce available with favorites including delicious soups, home made pasta and stuffed peppers, all full of flavour from the addition of local cheeses and fresh herbs.
The meal lasts all night, the service is good and many diners are greeted with a kiss by Marco. The meal isn’t cheap and booking is essential as its always full, but it’s a great choice for veggies and non-veggies alike, a real dining experience!
"La Zucca Magica" (The Magic Pumpkin)is a fabulous vegetarian restaurant in the South of France. Once you've got over the pumpkin themed decor, not really a design dream, you can settle down to an imaginative eating experience. There is no menu, you are served four or five courses of what is on offer that day. Marco, the chef, gets fresh ingredients daily from the local market so wonderful and varied vegetarian food with an Italian slant. The contents of each course delightfully explained by the waiter, in our case a mixture of French, Italian and English, his Welsh wasn't so good.
We went on my wife's birthday, towards the end of the meal the kitchen staff banged pans and sang happy birthday.
You need to book and this can be done easily via their website.
Just north of the main SNCF station is the Place Liberation. It's a pretty if busy traditional square opposite the facade of the old Gare Du Sud (the new station has relocated a few hundred yards west). There's a terrific market that's a lot cheaper than the tourist trap that is the Cours Saleya and there's a proliferation of non-touristy cafes and bars as well as an excellent seafood brasserie on the corner of the Boulevard Jean Garnier. For a taste of real urban France in a city obsessed with bling, it's a real find.
The new tram stops there although it's perfectly walkable from the SNCF station.
Google map: tinyurl.com/2vqqhe6
A haven for lovers of real beer, A traditional, basic boozer, Mori's is a real treat right in the heart of the city. There's plenty of choice from Scotland to Belgium to America on offer and - apart from nighclubs thronged with the fashionably sad - it's open after 11pm. You can also laugh at the more conceited French as they mince past.
5 Rue de France, Nice, France 06300
+33 (0)4 93 87 69 03
Google map: tinyurl.com/2w5q8gy
Velo Blue (Blue Bike) is a public bike rental scheme where you can, after pre-registering with your credit or debit card, just turn up at one of over 90 bike stations all over the city of Nice and pick up a bike using your mobile phone to release the padlock. You then just drop it back at any station when your done and you are charged just for the time you use it. I understand there are similar schemes popping up in other city's all over Europe.
Telephone: +33 (0)4 30 00 30 01 (Press option 2 for English)
Online Information in French www.velobleu.org
Online information in English
Station locations all over Nice City Centre (map on websites).
The Côte d'Azur offers art for all the senses. Start in Grasse, the charming historic centre of the perfume industry where you can tour the factories and make your own fragrance at Galimard. Cannes is worth a visit if only for a walk around the marina which provides art at its most bling. For something more traditional and tranquil, head for Renoir’s house at Cagnes-Sur-Mer with its own orange grove. At Nice, make the effort to climb the hill and visit the cemetery where the drama of the statuary is enhanced by the fabulous backdrop of the town and sea. Inland, don’t miss the fortified hilltop village of St Paul Vence which is pretty as a picture and jam-packed with art galleries to rival the biggest cities.
galimard.com, +33.4.93.09.20.00, €45 for 2 hours and your own fragrance.
The first time I went to Menton this place was closed. The second time (2009) it was opened and what a great experience.
Although small this collection is wonderful to see. As I entered the building after lunch (2pm) the wonderful air-con was such a joy. Obviously with so many original paintings it had to be kept cool in the searing heat and it was.
Be careful when you go up the steps not to miss the paintings on the walls. The upstairs gallery gives an interesting incite into Mr Cocteau.
They all left me feeling quite inspired as I left. A lovely way to spend an afternoon in Menton IMO.
This is the most elegant (and undiscovered) shop in Nice.
Down by the port near the antiques district, Anne and Bertrand Vignes work quietly away in this chic little boutique making fabulous frames, wallets, belts, bags and jewellery with wonderful exotic leathers.
Jewel coloured crocodile and stingray skins are crafted into cuffs and necklaces - simply stunning. Expensive - yes - but worth saving up for as you won't find anything like it anywhere else on the Cote. And check out Anne's personal style - she always looks amazing.
16 Rue Emmanuel Philibert
A roast meat restaurant in Vieux Nice: if you're looking for an alternative to pasta, pizza or nicoise cuisine this place will sort you out in no time.
It's a tiny new (opened May 2009) good-looking restaurant/take-away by Place Rossetti offering simply five types of roasted meats, with a choice of either mash, roast potatoes or ratatouille on the side - eat in and you get a mesclun salad included in the price.
We've tried the beef, which is served French-style rare, and lamb so far and they were both delicious: seriously good value at 11euro each. After sharing one generous take-out serving of lamb between two at our apartment rental we were so impressed we went back to dine in the next day.
It's a brilliant concept and a very welcome addition (for carnivores at least) to the Vieille Ville's restaurant scene. Go early if you want the half chicken - or the window seat!
Rossetti - Serie
8 rue Mascoinat (just off Place Rossetti)
Vieux Nice 06300
open Tuesday to Saturday, 12-2pm & 8-10pm
The French Riviera and in particular Nice, Cannes and those areas are always good to visit, but I want to recommend the town of Valbonne. I had a really nice stay there a while ago and resided in a villa nearby that had its own pool and tennis court. Nearby is Grasse for perfume and shopping, Mougins and of course Cannes and long sandy beaches. I can certainly recommend this area.
Easy to fly into Nice, a number of airports and airlines do it. I flew Easyjet from Luton and stayed in a villa from www.qualityvillas.com
This restaurant was recommended on Been there and we decided to check it out. It's set on two floors and is quite small, but stylish. It's definitely not touristy (at least not when we went in March) but very busy with locals. We were lucky to get a table. Service was great. Food and wine delicious. Not sure how expensive it was as someone else picked up the tab - but I think reasonable.
27, rue de la Prefecture
Phone: +33 (0)4 93 85 29 57
For a day-excursion out of Nice, take the train up in to the mountains. The train is tiny and runs on a single track from central Nice to Digne. We actually jumped off half-way in Entrevaux, about one hour from Nice. This is a walled medieval town with a fort that you can walk up to (entry fee €3) – it's a bit of a climb, but the view is well worth it. The town and the fort were deserted when we went in March – but probably gets busy in summer. If you go out of season, I recommend to bring a picnic as there might not be any cafes open.
If you don't mind travelling a bit further, Digne, which is ment to be beautiful, is three hours from Nice. Just make sure you check the time table – the trains only run about six times per day.
This is a great auberge (hotel-restaurant) just above Nice in a cute little provincial village just one hours drive. But it's worth it. The view is magnificent and so is the food. The french chef really makes you feel how he loves what he does. Everything is homemade with fresh produce, which in the summer, comes from the organic farm which he runs with his english wife. Good value too! Menu 31 and 36 euros. But you must reserve as they're very popular on the weekend and during the summer.
Take the RN202 Route de Digne to Puget Theniers and then turn right across a new suspended bridge. In the centre of the village of La Penne just 13kms from Puget Theniers
This is a guided bike tour for discovering Nice.
The tour passed all Nice's main attractions. The guide explained Nice's history during the tour, and answered all questiones sufficiently which were put to him during the tour. The tour is three hours long and included a free coffee (or beer).
The guide also pointed out all the best bars and restaurants for different tastes on the tour - from cheap n cheerful to regional cuisine and top-end romantic.
A great way to orientate yourself in Nice and see it from some fantastic angles.
Boni used to be located at 21 rue Barla in Nice but has moved to 15 rue Tonduti de l'Escarene - a bit closer to the centre of Nice and easier to access either by tram, bus or car.
The place is great and the decor is superb. The floor staff (Igor and JP) is the same as at the former address. They do speak English
fluently which is a great help if yours is basic.
The food is simple and yet full of flavours, taste and colour. The service is excellent and the desserts are... out of this world.
15 Rue Tonduti de l'Escarene, 06000 Nice
Bus N°7: Stop Hospital St Roch
Tram: Stop at Gare routière
Car: Nearest car park Marshall - 1h20 min for free
There is a stunning array of tea and coffee and amazing cakes and pastries in this little café and salon de thé. Beautiful decorations and friendly staff add to the effect.
7 Rue Saint François de Paul, Nice
For quick and tasty street food on the go, try Sur La Pouce.
The moustachioed owner is friendly and chatty - go a second time and chances are he'll remember you.
To get a real taste of classic Nice food go for the assiette Nicoise. It gives you all the classics on one plate: stuffed vegetables, courgette flowers, sardines etc.
On Rue St Francois in the Old Town
It is one of the recommendations on this site: www.nice-city-vacation.com/nice-restaurant.html
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